Somerset is often regarded as one of the most historic places in England, but it is possible its historical significance stretches beyond this country.
There are parts of the county that are not only the oldest in England or the UK, but that are claimed to be possibly the oldest of its kind in all of Europe.
One particular street in our fair county fits into this very category.
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One assumes that places that carry so much history would stand out on a landscape, be obvious from far around and draw the eyes naturally.
The place in question, however, is as unassuming as it comes.
Nestled in the city of Wells, in the very heart of Somerset, Vicar’s Close is believed to hold a very special title.
Vicars Close in Wells in the snow
The residential street, which still bears the original buildings that lined it when it was constructed, is believed to be the oldest residential street with surviving buildings in Europe.
It dates back to the 14th century, when it was built for Bishop Ralph of Shrewsbury, meaning it has remained standing for around 700 years.
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The Vicars’ Hall was completed in 1348 and included a communal dining room, administrative offices and treasury of the Vicars Choral.
The houses on either side of the close were built in the 14th and early 15th centuries.
The cobbled Close was originally home to 42 dwellings – one for every vicar serving the nearby Cathedral – but some were combined following the Reformation when vicars were allowed to marry.
The 140m-long street, which ends with the iconic Wells Cathedral at one end, still comprises 27 dwellings, all of which are Grade I-listed due to their historical significance.
The 14th-century street is claimed to be the oldest of its kind in Europe
(Image: Somerset Live)
There is also a chapel, library, treasury and muniment room. as well as a dining hall connected to the Cathedral by a covered walkway, the Chain Gate Bridge.
The street was designed to provide communal accommodation for the Vicars Choral, who sang daily worship within the Cathedral.
This centuries-old tradition continues today and the street remains involved in the day to day activities of the Cathedral.
Today, the Close remains a living community and occupants still include all men of the Vicars Choral (now 12 members), plus the Organists and Virgers who are part of the lifeblood of the Cathedral.
The street has also gone about making its own history in modern times, as it has been used as a popular filming location.
It, along with countless other parts of the city, were part of the filming of Edgar Wright’s Hot Fuzz in 2006 – but this famous use is not the city’s only claim to fame.
While Vicar’s Close was not a centrepiece in every round of filming carried out in Wells, the city has also been used as a backdrop for Poldark , The Huntsman starring Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron, and The Libertine starring Johnny Depp among other projects down the years.
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